Thursday, December 23, 2010

Love Means Nothing In Tennis or Top Chef...

So, this episode brought two things I turn into a blubbering pre-teen girl over - tennis and Top Chef.  I will get into tennis a bit more later, but for now the Quickfire.  Tony Mantuano!  If Mario Batali is the King of Italian Cooking in America and Lidia Bastianich is the Queen, Tony is a fucking Duke.  Seriously.  There's probably a bunch of Italian chefs in NY and SF pissed I said that.  Fuck them.  Go eat at Spiaggia, and you'll see why I say that.

The chefs have to cook without any tools.  Imagine you get home.  You're hungry.  You know you've got a full fridge of food that just needs to be prepped and thrown together.  You've got no money to go out.  Oh, yeah, you also have no knives, no spoons, nothing to prep with.  Just pans.  You'd fucking break down and cry.  Staring longingly at the chicken in the fridge, and the onion that somehow needs to be sliced, garlic to smash.  The desperate may try throwing it all in the pan whole and hope to god flavors blend and marry.  The truly desperate would think raw onion and garlic is tasty right about now.  These guys didn't.  They had to cook stuffing without their tools.  It led to some interesting improvisations - Fabio grating cheese on the racks holding pans; Marcel using plastic wrap to pipe stuffing into his squab; Carla attempts to dice an onion by smashing it with a pan; Blaise using a lid as a spoon; Jamie stirs her stuff with a hunk of bacon.  I want a spoon to stir stuff made from bacon now.  Can someone get on that shit for me?  Thanks!  In the end Carla undercooked her quinoa (she called it "un done-te"), Tiffani made too sweet stuffing, Casey didn't make stuffing.  Tre made a stuffing that looked incredibly straight forward, but from Tony Mantuano's comments probably tasted like angels were having an orgy on your tongue.  Marcel put up a solid dish that wasn't quite orgasmic, but damn good.  Tre wins the Quickfire and immunity.  Oh yeah, he also won $20,000.  A serious chunk of change for anyone.

And on to the Elimination challenge.  Padma tells them they're going to be cooking in a head to head challenge at the US Open and to cook healthy high energy food because the players require that.  I was torn between ruining my pants and jumping up and down in anger.  I was there for the fortnight!  When the fuck did they do this challenge?!  I saw Rick Moonen, Tony Mantuano, Jonathan Waxman, Susan Fenniger and Carmen Gonzalez.  At no point did I see signs going, "Come watch Top Chef All Stars!"  And there was a bit of a crowd in the stands.  At Louis Armstrong!  Where the fuck was I???  Was it the quarters?  Was I busy rooting for Novak Djokovic over Gael Monfils?  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it wasn't awesome to see the aforementioned chefs, but I've been a Top Chef junkie since Season 1.  I was annoyed in Season 2 when only Cliff got sent home over hairgate when everyone should have been eliminated and Marcel given the win by default.  Hell, Tom said he wanted that to happen but the producers overruled him.  By the way, I know it's Louis Armstrong because the court isn't quite dwarfed by the seats.  The seats are also closer to the court.  If it were Ashe Stadium, there would be a lot more space between the seats and the court.  Way less intimate at Ashe.

But back to the Elimination, Padma comes out with a serviette with cans of tennis balls.  The cans are labeled "Top Chef," and I kinda want one of those cans now.  If anyone knows where I can get one, let me know.  It'd go up on my "trophy case," next to the signed stuff by everyone from Andre Agassi to Mark Philippousis to Andy Roddick.  Each can has only one ball colored orange or yellow.  Tennis balls are usually yellow, it's called "optic yellow."  As they get used they fade to greenish.  Teams are split up, and the teams strategize.  Team Yellow is Tre, Spike, Angelo, Tiffany, Tiffani, Casey and Jamie.  Team Orange is Antonia, Marcel, Blaise, Dale, Carla, Mike and Fabio.  The rules are that each team will send out one competitor to go head to head for tasting.  If you win, your team gets a point.  The members of the winning team, who made point worthy dishes, are possible contenders for the overall win.  The members of the losing team, who lost at the attempt for a point, are up for elimination.  In light of this, Spike suggests that they put their worst dishes first, thinking that Team Orange would put their best dishes first.  Basically, Spike thinks Orange is gonna play like Andy Roddick and try to just bomb aces onto the court.  Spike wants to play like Roger Federer.  Chip the ball back into play and win on the ground game through a mastery of ball control and power.  The Chefs shop at Whole Foods and then get to cooking.

In the prep kitchen, minor drama ensues.  Angelo's mackerel is slimy and nasty and snags some of Tiffany's tuna.  Carla lops off the top of her finger.  Nifty bit of info, if you chop off the very top of your finger, it will grow back.   Carla proves herself to be a BOSS and just has the EMT bandage it and she keeps prepping.  In the course of Tom's walk through of the kitchen, he finds that Team Yellow is tight lipped about strategy.  Antonia is shocked, and the camera appears to portray her as trying to spy on Yellow for her team.  Tom finally gets to hear the strategy in a back prep area from Angelo and Spike.  He seems intrigued, but lets them know that there's an hour left to cook.

Now it's onto the court.  If you've never been to Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, go.  It is one of the greatest venues for sport.  Period.  It is also the only major stadium open to the public when the tournament chiefly held there is not in session.  For $40 you can go play on Arthur Ashe with some friends and feel like you're McEnroe or Evert, Sampras or Graf, Borg or Navratilova.  Let me tell you, for all the time I've played and all the matches I've been in, nothing quite compares to playing on a stadium court and hearing the echo of the ball hitting your string bed.  You feel like a better player, even if you're not.  That sound is amazing and stays with you.  Tennis fans will know what I'm talking about.  For those reading this just for the cooking, it's like getting to cook inside the kitchen at The French Laundry or el Bulli, even though no one else but you and some friends are gonna eat it.  The last time I got to play at BJKNTC, I hit a good friend in the back of the head with the ball on a serve.  Lesson learned?  When I try to serve like Roddick people get hurt.

Chefs get onto the court and start getting their stuff set up.  Judges come out, and they're joined by a player - Taylor Dent.  Dent was a pretty good former player.  Not great, but he kept alive the serve and volley style I loved so much.  With the slower courts of the modern era, serve and volley is a good way to give up points to the guy at the baseline.  I have to admit to being a little ticked off here, as the way Padma phrased her intro, I thought there'd be a lot of pro players.  Poop.

The chefs are ready to go.  Well, mostly.  Jaime doesn't want to go up because her beans aren't done.  They're al dente.  No one likes al dente beans.  Because they're not al dente.  They're un done-te.  Thank you, Carla.  I'm borrowing that and using it forever and ever!  With Spike's strategy she should be going first.  But she's not.  She seems to shrink away.  Fabio plates and is ready to present and team Yellow is still trying to figure out who's going.  There's a term in tennis called "icing the server."  The rule is, if the server is on the line and ready to serve, you HAVE to be at the line.  Even if the server doesn't use up their entire 20 second break, you have to be there.  If you don't, and the server serves and you weren't there to return it, it's their point.  In pro tennis, because certain players are whiney little bitches who think they should get the full time between points no matter what, players are given warnings for time violations.  Multiple warning can result in point and game penalties.  Fabio's ready and he's on the team that's "serving."  Yellow's inconsistency, in my opinion, should have resulted in a warning to keep with the tennis theme.  Casey jumps up and goes in against Fabio's gnocchi.  She loses with a pork loin and faro dish that was heavy on the pork and not enough faro.  15-0, Orange.

Next up is Tiffani serving for Yellow with black bass sashimi, against Dale's dumpling with spicy carrot foam.  Marcel was ready to go up, but Dale felt his dumplings were dying and begged to go in.  Marcel gets ticked because he was already plating.  Apparently Dale's dumplings had already died.  Tiffani wins.  15-all.

Marcel finally gets to go, and he's matched up with Angelo.  Marcel serves up a cauliflower couscous with tuna against Angelo's smoked tuna in a spoon.  What the fuck is up with serving in a spoon?  Marcel's dish doesn't measure up to Angelo's spoon presentation.  Yellow is up 15-30.

Next is the rest of Tiffany's tuna with fennel and lentils against Antonia's scallop dish.  Tiffany didn't season so it's now tied again at 30-all.

Up next is Richard's "Thai-bouleh," a play on tabouleh with lamb and Thai spices against Spike.  Spike made tomato and tamarind soup with shrimp.  Unfortunately Spike lets Tiffany D and Angelo get in on the dish.  They both make modifications to his dish, modifications he's not happy with.  I'm sorry, Spike, but at some point you'd better stab the fucker for touching your shit.  He didn't help anyone last season, and he's not helping anyone this season.  Both of them get dinged on poor proteins, Spike is under-seasoned and Blaise's lamb is too gamy.  Blaise edges out the win, and it's now 40-30.  Match point.

This is the point where the server has a chance to close out the entire match.  Not just a game or set, the Match.  Big M.  If you close it out, you're gravy.  If nerves get in the way, you could be in for a world of hurt as your opponent breaks back and maybe gets back into the game.  I've seen many awesome player fall apart, both in pro and amateur tournaments, who let Match Point get away from them and went on to lose after a sizable lead.  And this point is pretty fucking big.  Not only is it deciding which team goes home, but it's Carla against Tre.  Two chefs known for big, bold homey flavors with some ballsy and refined presentation.  Carla makes her spicy peanut stew, and just owns it.  She's not willing to let anyone dog her dish, because it's her favorite and she knows what's in it.  Tre answers with a salmon and parsnip puree that shanks out of bounds and into the nosebleeds.  Carla wins.  Game, set and match - Team Orange.

Into the stew room we go.  I've got no tennis analogy for this.  If you can come up with one, I will be appreciative.  Fabio, Carla, Blaise and Antonia get called to Judge's Table and are praised for their dishes.  Padma also springs that the winner gets a 5 night trip to Italy.  Carla wins and goes to Italy.  This is pretty badass, because Carla's one of those people that fans of the show universally love.  Seriously.  If you don't love when Carla pulls out a win, there's something wrong with you.  The top competitors come back and ask for Spike, Casey, Tre and Tiffany to go to Judge's Table.

Before we see JT, we see Blaise calling Jaime out on not having presented a dish.  Jaime naturally gets indignant about this, but I don't think she has a leg to stand on.  Yeah, your dish wasn't ready.  Yeah, your ass may be on the line, but you are supposed to compete, and you didn't.  I love you, Jaime, but you just don't have a valid argument right now.

At JT, the errors for each dish are recapped and the chefs are questioned.  Spike gets dinged on his soup, with some mixed signals.  The soup was great, but the shrimp weren't seasoned.  The soup wasn't so great, and the shrimp were worse.  I'm not sure what the Judge's are getting at with the conflicting information.  Sure, different palates and everything, but uhh...huh?!?  Spike fires off his defense that Angelo (and Tiffany to a more minor extent) had meddled with his dish.  Tiffany defends Angelo saying that yeah, he did pick at it, but Spike's ultimately responsible.  I get what she's saying, and yeah, Spike dropped the ball by letting Angelo fiddle with his shit.  I'm kind of waiting at this point to watch someone stab the shit out of Angelo.  Just really bury their 8" Global or Shun Chef's Knife in his face.  It's not cool, Angelo.  You aren't fucking helping and you know you aren't helping.  Do you really want to come off as That Guy?  Knock it off.  Casey adamantly disagrees with the judges that her dish wasn't bad, and she's got a point.  She just got beat by an even better dish.  Tom slaps Tre down a bit for not really caring, since he had immunity and $20k.  Tiffany gets hit for having bland tuna.  They send Spike home.  Which bothers me, because if Tiffany had fucking bland tuna and Spike's broth was described by Tom as being wonderful...why the fuck was Spike sent home?  Maybe for dropping the ball in controlling his food?  If that's the case, totally valid.  But, I dunno...I'm leaning towards Tiffany based on the judge's comments.  And yeah, honestly, Jaime was saved by Tre losing.  If it weren't for that, I feel that at 40-all, no ad, Jaime would be the one packing her knives.

I am tickled, though that in Top Chef, love is meaningless.  And just like in a tennis match, the only person you can really depend on out there is yourself.  It's one on one (on one, etc) out there.  No one to fall back on.  No coach to pull you through.  You'd better have your best shit with you when you step onto the court or into the Top Chef kitchen.  I wonder if they can do Wimbledon next year...

Friday, December 17, 2010


Y'know, I can't really complain about this episode.  Sure, Fabio was a whiny little bitch about having to cook outside his comfort zone.  Dude.  This whole competition takes people out of their comfort zone all the fucking time.  I'm sure if I had to live in the same house as the other people in my MD/PhD program for a few weeks, I'd go fucking insane.  Not to mention be incredibly uncomfortable.

I can't argue with who went home or who loss.  Dale T. did awesome playing up to Wylie's favorites and he didn't have to go overboard with the "special equipment."  Dale L. and Stephen just fell short.  Nothing more to say on it.  I could have used more Bourdain snark, though.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

"Rock Stars," "The Mise," Eliminations & Errata

Can I just start by saying how much I love Dale Talde in this episode?  Seriously, not knowing who Joe Jonas was?  I wish I was you.  I really wish I didn't know who he was either.  And really Spike, how much did Disney pay you to call the Jonas Brothers "rock stars?"  It's ok!  You can tell us.  We won't tell anyone.

It's ok, Spike.  I did feel bad for you when you had to go up against Tiffani Faison's sugar bomb with carrot chips and mascarpone.  Seriously.  I think that snack would have gone over better with an older crowd and you definitely tried to play up to the judges (always a smart move), but were just thrown another dreaded twist.  Although...a part of me did jump up and down screaming, "Why are you serving carrot chips to kids at a slumber party?!"  Were you never invited to one?  Parents never wanted you to spend the night with their kid, less they pick up douchey hipster hats too?  Anyway, the two pick teams (Tiffani takes all the girls except Carla; Spike gets all the guys except Tre, and Dale L.) and head to the museum to serve the quickfire dishes to the kids to decide.  And let me say something right now to Richard Blaise.  Yes, you're a "Molecular Gastronomy" guru.  Yes, you know how to use liquid nitrogen and teach a "Liquid Nitrogen 101" course.  Do you know who else knows how to do that?  Most people in a chem lab.  So get off your goddamn high horse with, "It looked like a LN2 101 course."  I'm a jackass, but that, sir, made me pause and wonder what the fuck was up your ass.  If you thought you could have helped, fucking help!  I don't leave fellow students hanging in lab, even if it's not my lab.  Fucking grow a pair and help out and stop lecturing at people from the side lines.  Anyway...Guess who won?  Tiffani with the sugar bomb!  Who the fuck didn't see that one coming?!

And then we have the elimination challenge - cooking breakfast for the kids when they wake up.  As the winner, Tiffani gets to pick between a T-Rex and a Brontosaurus.  She picks T-Rex and gets eggs, milk, meat and all animal products.  Spike gets Brontosaurus, and is left with everything else.  The teams take naps or wander the museums before cooking in the morning.  Tre bitches that he's used to sleeping naked and not on cots in the North American Mammals exhibit.  Pretty sure some of the viewers and other contestants wouldn't have minded, Tre.

Morning comes and Team T-Rex is shocked they don't get access to herbs or veg, because they figured that since T-Rex eats Bronto, they'd eat plums and potatoes too.  I'm not sure where that logic came from.  Maybe this is why they're chefs and not paleontologists?  Biologists?  Although Tom would later be puzzled by this too.  So maybe it was the lack of sleep that caused the confusion.  Anyway, Team T-Rex soldiers on without access to herbs or any type of non-animal protein matter.  Look at it this way, folks.  You still have butter.  The other team did not have butter.  Any butter.  At all.  Fuck you, you better make something tasty.  You have bacon and butter.  And salt is inorganic.  Both teams get that shit.  Butter, bacon and salt.  Don't fuck this up!  What does Team T-Rex do?  They bitch about the lack of herbage and fuck it all up.  Tre and Case do salmon.  Jen and Jamie plan to play on "bacon and eggs."  Tiffani and Dale L. make a play on "steak and eggs."  My biggest problem?  Antonia and Tiffany D. doing three frittatas.  Frittatas.  Mini-frittatas at that.  The kind that look like they come IQF in the Costco frozen foods section.

Team Bronto gets everything else, but rallies around the fact that they still get access to some of the herbage and deeper polyphenol flavors found in vegetable matter - peppers, onions, garlic, etc.  And they make it work!  Fabio and Stephen make gnocchi.  There's a banana parfait from Marcel, Angelo and Richard.  Dale T. and Mike make polenta and stewed peppers.  Carla and Spike make gazpacho.  Oh hey, Angelo.  I kinda rooted for you last season, even when things got iffy and you started "mentoring" other contestants.  But, this time?  Yeah, you crossed a line this time.  YOU DO NOT FUCK WITH SOMEONE ELSE'S MISE!  If it's my shit in a kitchen or a lab, and you fuck with it without me saying so, I will stab the shit out of you.  And if we're not in a lab, I'm dragging your ass to the nearest O-Chem lab to dump your body in a vat o' dimethyl sulfoxide.  They will never find your body.  Bronto wins.  The nanner parfait was the judge's favorite, and Marcel, Angelo and Richard split the win.  Angelo's ego expands, causing a shift in the Earth's orbit.  By 2050, due to the mass increase, Earth will careen into the Sun, pulling the rest of the planets along with it.  Saynoara, everyone.  It was great knowing you.  I will be spending my last years on Earth drinking and whoring it up.

Back to Team T-Rex who lost.  Jen is pissed they lost.  She stands by her dish.  Jen is an amazing chef.  Let me just get that out of the way.  Did I try her food on the show?  No.  I would, however, not be adverse to ever being a guest judge on Top Chef.  Just throwing that out there in case Andy, Tom or Padma reads this.  Seriously, I would love to grill the fuck out of the "molgas" chefs for their lack of chem and physics knowledge.  Or maybe I can pitch a new show at Andy...Top Biochemist!  "For your quickfire today, you have 30 minutes to prepare TRIS-buffer from propane and nitric acid.  Blowing up the lab is an automatic elimination from the competition.  The winner will get immunity and a Nobel Prize for somehow warping the laws of Physics around their bench.  Good luck."

Anyway, back on topic.  Jen's good!  Her pedigree is awesome.  Stints at Julia, Arroyo, Sous Chef at Le Bernardin and  Chef de Cuisine for 10 Arts.  Eric fucking Ripert picked her to be a CdC.  This is an amazingly talented woman who went down in her season to some equally talented competitors - Kevin Gillespie and the Bros Voltaggio.  Jen takes a very vocal stand and insists that Team T-Rex was better than Team Bronto.  And she does not back down.  Go Jen!  And then the finger pointing starts.  Jamie cut herself originally during prep and left to get stitches.  Two stitches.  She came back, after most of the heavy lifting was done and resigned herself to be Jen's sous chef.  Hey, I get it.  You're not so into the food.  Injury offers you way out.  You took it.  Between the two of them?  I'd pick Jamie to be eliminated.  However, remember those Costco frittatas I mentioned?  Yeah.  My choice for absolute bottom of the barrel would have been Antonia or Tiffany.  Why?  They didn't even bother to try to adapt.  They copped out.  Rather than run with the ball, they tried to kick a field goal.  From the 72 yard line.  In their haste to play it safe, some of the eggs were overcooked, some of the eggs were perfectly cooked, and some of the eggs were undercooked.  If you have the title of "Chef" and you cannot monitor some fucking eggs in an oven, please turn in your toque, your jacket and your knives.  How fucking hard is it to peek in the oven and rotate shit around?  Not very!  Team T-Rex is sent back, and the judges deliberate.

Tom stresses that they're only talking about the food, and that personality doesn't come into play.  I'm not so sure.  I think at some point during that deliberation Jen's confrontational behavior needled at the back of the judge's mind.  They obviously disagreed with the arguments put out by Jen.  And sent Jen packing.  Hey, I get it.  I wasn't there and the boiled bacon did look a bit lackluster, but man.  I've gotta say.  Jen took a fucking chance.  If you had to eliminate someone between her and Jamie it should have been Jamie.  And I hate saying that.  I love Jamie!  I love her food.  Seriously.  Come out to SF and we'll go to Absinthe and I'll show you why her food rocks.  Antonia and Tiffany just ticked me off.  They didn't really adapt to the challenge.  They tried poo-poo'ing on Team T-Rex's choices ("Gnocchi is not breakfast food!").  Honey, if the gnocchi was bomb, I'd eat it for breakfast.  Anyone would.  And they threw a team member under the dreaded and proverbial bus.  Seriously.  Way to be a team player.  Remind me if I'm ever in a life and death situation and you two are some of my options, to just go it the fuck alone.  I do not need help like yours.

And Jen is gone.  I had pegged her to be one of the ones up until the end.  With a serious chance at winning (Jen, Tiffani F., Richard and Spike).  And Jen was one of my favorites (along with Tiffani F., Marcel, Jamie and Spike).  Yes.  I like Marcel.  The annoying little shit grows on you.  Plus he's got some balls to just needle the judges and fellow contestants with his food.  If anyone ever told me they were tired of foam, I'd fucking serve them foam table side too.  Fuck you.  It's my dish.  When it's your dish, I'll make it your way.  Eat it and like it or GTFO!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


My bad.  I forgot my old wordpress account address.  I really need to get something off my chest, so I'm gonna do it now.  New blog.  New season of Top Chef to bitch about.

Are you ready?